Before the June 26, 2013 decision where the U.S. Supreme Court removed the section that limited marriage to a union between a man and woman from the Federal Defense of Marriage Act of DOMA, same sex couples were denied an array of federal benefits. Same sex couples consisting of gay and lesbian couples who are married or not, were not given benefits that heterosexual married couples are being provided by the federal government. After the court ruling, the federal government will now recognize all valid marriages between same sex couples that reside in states where same sex marriage is legal. Considering all the federal laws that offer protection, rights and benefits to married couples, same sex couples living in same sex marriage states can enjoy federal benefits like any other normal couple.
1. Social Security Benefits
There are various Social Security programs that have helped married couples financially, but were not available to same sex couples in the past.
Spousal Retirement Benefit
For married couples who have retired and when the calculated Social Security benefit of a person is lower than his spouse, half of his spouse’s higher benefit can be taken, instead of receiving the calculated amount from his earnings.
Spousal Survivor Benefit
The surviving spouse of a deceased person is entitled to receive Social Security retirement and disability benefits based on the deceased’s earning record.
The federal government provides $255 to surviving spouses to help in funeral expenses
2. Tax Benefits
Just like any married couple, same sex married couples can receive federal tax benefits, such as –
Estate Tax and Estate Planning Benefits
An array of estate planning benefits is accessible to all married couples.
Joint Income Tax Returns With The IRS
Joint income tax returns are beneficial over separate income tax returns. In fact, a large number of unmarried couples end up losing a fortune because of the separate tax returns that have to be filed with the IRS.
Family Partnership For Business Income Among Family Members
Business income can be divided among family members as permitted by the federal tax law which results in large tax savings.
Life Estate Trusts
Life estate trusts, QTIP trusts and QDOT trusts can be taken out by married couples as these provide distinct tax benefits at a spouse’s death. The QDOT trust allows surviving spouses who are non US citizens to postpone estate tax payments that amount over the exemption amount, while the QTIP trust allows surviving spouses to utilize trust property tax free in certain situations.
Portability on Estate Tax
The personal estate tax exemptions can be combined for married couples and when a person dies, the surviving spouse can receive property worth up to about $10 million that is federal estate tax free.
Estate And Gift Tax Exemption
Properties received by a surviving spouse are exempted from a certain amount of money from federal gift taxes and federal estate taxes by federal law. This means that the surviving spouse is not required to pay taxes for any amount received from a deceased spouse under the exemption limit.
Ever since the court ruling last June 26, 2011 more and more same sex couples are beginning to learn about their rights to federal benefits. However, since not everyone are aware of the specifics involved in the DOMA and available federal benefits, consulting with a well experienced and reliable lawyer is necessary.
Valerie Ricks is a freelance writer specializing in legal topics. She also offers information about the Federal Defense Of Marriage Act for same sex couples living in states where same sex marriage is legal. Learn more about the federal benefits available for same sex couples here.